Murtala Salami’s ordeal in the hands of policemen last year has continued to traumatise him. Precisely in October, 2019, the clearing agent, who works in Apapa Port, Lagos, got an Infinix Hot 4 phone from a phone technician, identified simply as Yusuf, several months after he gave Yusuf an Infinix Hot 6 phone to fix. The problem with the phone he gave Yusuf to repair was intractable, hence, the technician gave him a similar phone as a temporary replacement pending the time he would find solutions to his phone. Murtala, who had by then bought a new phone, simply gave the replacement phone to his wife, but few weeks later, policemen from Alakara Division in Ojoo area of Ibadan, Oyo State, tracked the phone to his wife, while Murtala had gone to work. His wife was arrested and detained at Ikotun Police Station, Lagos. She was freed in the evening after her husband got to the station, while he was in turn held and transferred to Alakara Police Station in Ibadan. But before Murtala was moved to Ibadan, he was first taken to Yusuf’s house in the neighborhood but the technician, on sighting his customer’s hands cuffed, bolted without a trace.
The young clearing agent was consequently detained for six months at the police division in Ibadan. Within the six days he spent there, he claimed the policemen extorted him to the tune of N160, 000 which the minions claimed was meant for his bail and logistics. The money, according to him, was withdrawn from his Access Bank account through a POS machine the policemen brought to him in the cell.
“I still cannot get over my experience in the hands of the policemen at the station. It happened that gave my Infinix Hot 6 phone to a technician called Yusuf to fix for me. The phone’s screen had issues and I gave him about N7,500 to fix it for me. Several months later, Yusuf did not return my phone, leaving me with no choice than to report him to some of his acquaintances after I discovered that he was avoiding me in our neighbourhood,’’ Murtala said.
‘’One day, I saw him at Computer Village in Ikeja and held him by his shirt. The encounter created a scene and some bystanders a brokered truce between us. In the middle of the altercation, he told me that my phone was giving him problems and he offered to give me a similar phone-Infinix Hot 4 for my temporary use pending the time he would properly fix my phone. I collected the phone and gave it to my wife since I had bought a new phone. Few days later, while I was at work in Apapa, I learnt that some policemen were at my residence to arrest my wife and that she was being taken to Ikotun Police Division. I rushed down.
‘’My wife was freed after a sum of N5,000 was collected from her, while I was detained. I was led to Yusuf’s home in the neighbourhood of Ikotun and he fled on sighting me in handcuffs. I was subsequently moved to Alakara Police Station in Ojoo area of Ibadan, Oyo State. I was held in the cell for six days and I paid through my nose. The Investigating Police Officer (IPO), a woman called Inspector Tosin, told me that I would have to pay to regain my freedom. I told them how I got the phone in my statement and that they should arrest Yusuf, but they insisted that I would have to pay for my bail. I told them I had no cash on me except some money in my bank account in Access Bank. Knowing full well that I brought my ATM card with me to the station, they took it from me before locking me up in the cell. The IPO dashed out and returned with a POS through which she asked me to pay a sum of N80,000 and I had no option than to comply right there inside the cell.
‘’I thought that would I would be freed but the policemen continued to extort me using the POS until I coughed out additional N40,000 twice, making the total amount they collected for bail N160,000, thus my account was emptied. Initially, they held me incommunicado, but when she later demanded another sum of N10,000, I told her my account was empty. At this point, she gave me a phone to call anyone that could give me the money, following which I called one of my brothers on phone. My father, who intercepted the call, came to the station and got annoyed when he learnt that I was forced to pay via POS device brought by the policemen handling the case.’’
He added that his father, Saka Salami, who was miffed by the conduct of the policemen approached the Divisional Police Officer (DPO) of the station, who reprimanded the officers involved in the controversial POS withdrawals and ordered them to refund the money to the suspect. He noted that the IPO and other officers at the station, who connived to extort him, have refused to refund the money and instead threatened to charge him to court after demanding a refund according to the DPO’s order.
‘’The DPO intervened when my father visited me at the station and brought my plight to his attention. He instructed the officers to refund the money to me but they said that I can only have the money when Yusuf had been found. I was released without being given the money and I ran into Yusuf a few days later at Computer Village in Ikeja; I took him to a police post inside the market and he was from there transferred to the station in Ibadan. But despite the fact that they had collected money from Yusuf before setting him free, they still reused to refund my money.’’
Speaking with the News Agency, Murtala’s father, Saka Salami, recalled how he confronted the policemen involved in the POS withdrawals from his son’s bank account. He explained that the officers deliberately did not allow his son to call any of his family members until they had cleaned out his bank account.
‘’ When I got to the station, the policemen said the phone in question belonged to an unnamed police officer and that it took them several weeks to track it to my son’s wife in Lagos. They said the phone cost N37, 000; the tracking cost them N50,000 and that the total cost of transportation was N10,000. They said my son had already paid the money and I became worried how my son was able to raise the money. He told me that Inspector Tosin, the IPO, brought a POS while he was inside the cell and withdrew the money from his Access Bank account leaving his account in red. At that juncture, I confronted them for extorting my son using a POS device and still demanding a sum of N10,000. The argument caught the attention of the Divisional Police Officer (DPO) who castigated the IPO and other officers involved in the POS saga and he ordered a refund of all the money collected from us. He asked that the Divisional Crime Officer (DCO) to see to it that the matter was resolved.
‘’But when we got to the DCO’s office, the matter changed when the IPO and DCO said the money would not be refunded unless Yusuf was found. I was again angry and it led to an altercation which again caught the ears of the DPO, who wasted no time in joining us at the DCO’s office. In fairness to the DPO, he again restated his earlier order that the money should be unconditionally refunded to us while my son should be freed without bail. But no sooner than the DPO left, that the IPO and DCO insisted that the money would not be refunded unless Yusuf was found but they released my son
‘’ Fortunately, a few days later, my son saw Yusuf in Ikeja and handed him over to a police post at Computer village from where he was transferred to Alakara Police Station in Ibadan. Sadly, they set Yusuf free in controversial circumstances, while the money they unlawfully collected from my son through POS has not been refunded. I am now crying out now, because they are threatening to charge my son to court if we insist on refund of the money.’’
Contacted repeatedly on Wednesday and Thursday, the spokesman of the Oyo State Police Command, Mr Olugbenga Fadeyi, who initially did not acknowledge receiving messages earlier sent to his phone by our reporter for his official reaction asked the reporter to call him again on Friday.
When he eventually reacted via a telephone conversation on Friday noon, he said: ‘’You have come again? What did you say the name of the station is? Oh, Alakara Division? Let the people who are making the allegations come and see me and you don’t have to be anxious to publish the story because we have to do our own investigation first. Let them see me in my office and come with their claims. We are going to investigate and if truly those (policemen) involved are found guilty, they are going to pay for it.’’